Concluding the latest book in the “Zombies vs. Robots” series from IDW, the fourth issue of the anthology “Zombies vs. Robots Adventure” is more an artist showcase than a display of amazing writing. Chris Ryall does some solid work in this issue, but the focus is clearly on the three artists, each tackling one of the stories, and showing off their unique styles and skills. While all are promising and show a lot of potential, the book never coheres completely. Each story in this issue concludes the four-part serialization and each does offer something a little different from the others.
The conclusion to “Kampf” with art by Menton Matthews III [***1/2] is the strongest story in the issue with Wade, a member of the armed forces, watching as his son is killed and made into the basis for a robot to fight for the human race against zombies. Matthews’s painted style has the sheen of realism to it, giving the image of Wade’s son in the machine initially an even creepier vibe than it would have otherwise -- and a starker contrast when the robot that was once his son emerges from the machine. The human connection in this story comes through because of Matthews’s art, which highlights how Wade reacts to what he’s done to his child. He’s also very good at drawing the robots and using colors for specific purposes. A shift to black and white is done quite well in the middle of the story and at the end.
“Masques” with art by Paul McCaffrey [***] is a big jump from “Kampf” with a focus on a robot who’s lost his master as an army of zombies approaches. McCaffrey’s style is cartoonish, reminiscent of European artists or, perhaps, even Geoff Darrow. His robot is expressive, while his zombies look menacing and somewhat comedic. There’s a dark comedy edge to this story that McCaffrey brings out, including a visual joke of one of the zombies looking similar to the Joker. Placing this story in the middle is a smart move with its lighter, breezier tone and pace. McCaffrey’s assured shading gives the robot here a visual depth and sense of age. This isn’t a new robot, but it also isn’t beaten down and broken. Interesting approach.
Concluding the issue is “Zuvembies vs. Robots” with art by Gabriel Hernandez [***], which has a squadron of robots killing zombies as one of the zombies somehow becomes human again to lead the zombies against the robots. Hernandez’s style is very similar to Ashley Wood’s, but more linear and coherent than Wood’s art often is. There’s that same sketchy line work coupled with dark, brown, messy colors. His figures are distinct from Wood’s, thicker and clearer. Hernandez uses browns and the red blood to good effect, making the blood stand out. His panel-to-panel storytelling is good, but it isn’t as energetic as the work of Wood or Bill Sienkiewicz. It’s a little too tight and restrained in places, especially in a story as wild and horrific as this one.
As far as artist showcases go, “Zombies vs. Robots Aventure” #4 is a very solid one with good writing from Chris Ryall that allows each artist to show off his skills best, and each doing so ably. All three artists have a lot of potential and I look forward to seeing their work again in the future.